Skip to main content

Greenville & Hockessin Life

New documentary focuses on collector featured at Hagley

Apr 14, 2016 10:50AM ● By J. Chambless

The legacy of Z. Taylor Vinson, whose extensive collection of automobile manufacturer catalogs and print advertisements is currently on exhibit at Hagley Museum and Library, is honored in a newly released documentary about Cuba’s drag-racing community titled "Havana Motor Club," currently in theaters and available on iTunes and Amazon.

During his lifetime (1933-2009), Vinson was instrumental in helping to conceive, create and sustain TailLight Diplomacy, a Philadelphia-based organization that created the conditions which now enable personal links between auto enthusiasts in the United States and Cuba. Vinson’s collection at Hagley mirrors this diplomacy and includes automotive memorabilia and advertisements from manufacturers across the globe.

“Mr. Vinson recognized the universal appeal of automobiles, and this appeal beyond borders is demonstrated both in his commitment to TailLight Diplomacy and in the international collection of automobile literature that he compiled,” says Max Moeller, curator, published collections, at Hagley.

Currently on display at Hagley as part of the “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” exhibition, the Z. Taylor Vinson collection includes items from more than 1,900 different automobile manufacturers dating from 1893 to 2009 and is considered the most comprehensive library collection of international car sales ephemera in the world.

TailLight Diplomacy was co-founded in 2000 by John Dowlin and Rick Shnitzler. Shnitzler was encouraged by Vinson’s eager participation in the group. Vinson served on TailLight Diplomacy's advisory working group from its startup until his death in 2009. Havana Motor Club touches on the work of the organization and Vinson’s important role in encouraging the preservation of Cuba’s fleet of American classic cars. In an extensive interview that is now part of a digital exhibit at Hagley featuring Vinson’s collection, Shnitzler elaborated on his 30-year friendship with Vinson and provided his insights on Vinson as a collector, archivist, curator, and fellow car enthusiast.

Guests can experience the “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” exhibition featuring much of Vinson’s collection daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibition-only admission is $6 for adults, $2 for children ages six to fourteen, and free for members and children five and under. Admission to the entire museum is $14 for adults, $5 for children six to fourteen, $10 for students and seniors, and free for Hagley members. Use Hagley’s museum entrance off Route 141.  

The majority of Hagley’s information on automobile advertising is from catalogs and print advertisements donated by Z. Taylor Vinson. Vinson was a senior lawyer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who avidly collected automobile literature. His interest in automobile literature began at the age of four, when he was given a 1938 Ford Trade catalogue. From there, Vinson expanded his collection, even writing to British, French, Italian, and Czech embassies in Washington, D.C., to request the addresses of automakers in those countries from whom he could obtain literature. By the time of his death in 2009, Vinson had amassed more than 1,200 linear feet of automotive memorabilia, and documents covering 1,900 international automobile manufacturers from 1893 to 2009, including trade catalogs, books, artifacts, and magazines.

For more information, call (302) 658-2400 weekdays or visit

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Greenville & Hockessin Life's free newsletter to catch every headline